AL Central Predictions 2009

Lee and the Indians need another miraculous season to contend for the division crown. Without it, they might be sunk.

Minnesota Twins (88-74) — Division Champ
I started to change my thoughts on this when Mauer got hurt, but now that it appears he’ll be back fairly soon in April, I am perfectly fine putting the Twins on top. The offense should be improved last year with the addition of Crede and putting Span in the leadoff spot instead of Gomez. What would really help is if Delmon Young decided to be legit for a season (a pretty good Spring has him leaning that way). Defensively, the team is pretty good, but it would be a benefit to find a better shortstop and to put Young’s butt on the bench as DH. As for the rotation, it’s the deepest in the division, and they even have a few prospects in the minors waiting. If Liriano continues to progress from his TJ surgery, they will be just fine. As for the bullpen, it still has Nathan, but they could use a quick return for Neshek to complete the team.

Chicago White Sox (85-77)
Aside from the inane decision to put Wise in the leadoff spot, the White Sox look pretty good offensively. Hopefully, Thome, Dye, and Konerko can contribute, and it would be great if Quentin and Fields became legit power threats for the future. They’ll also need a repeat season from Ramirez as he switches to short. Defensively, there’s really nothing to get excited about, and they’ll be below average. For the rotation, Buerhle and Danks are a pretty good 1-2 (just behind Meche-Greinke for best in the division), but I worry that Floyd will fall back to Earth. If Colon and Contreras can have one of those surprising seasons because you’re sure they’re dead because they have to be like 80 because they’ve played for awhile and haven’t played recently, right?, then I think they challenge for the division. Behind them, the bullpen looks very solid, but as usual, a bad rotation creates holes in that bullpen.

Cleveland Indians (81-81)
I don’t want to say it in hopes he proves me wrong, but is it time to put Hafner in the RIP section of baseball? He hasn’t looked good this Spring, and it wouldn’t be a good idea to expect a lot from him. Besides him, however, the offense doesn’t look too bad. Sizemore will challenge for the MVP, Choo is better than people who haven’t heard of him realize he is, and Martinez should bounce-back if he can stay healthy. Adding DeRosa, Peralta, and a decent year from Garko, and this might be the best offense in the division. But the problems come down to pitching. The rotation is Lee and a bunch of question marks. For not having any real threats behind him, I’m a little surprised everyone loves them so much. In the bullpen, Wood is infinitely better than Borowski, and I imagine the other set-up guys will rebound (that’s to you Betancourt). There’s some promise and upside, but I’m not putting faith in them putting it together.

Kansas City Royals (78-84)
After all the criticism and bitching Dayton Moore received, there are an awful lot of people calling his team the next Rays (which is just absurd, by the way; I mean incredibly dumb and insane). They look decent, and big years from Jacobs, Butler, and Gordon would be a great start. Guillen could also have a decent year, and DeJesus and Crisp could get on base occasionally. Defensively, well … let’s just say they have their good and bad moments. As for the starting rotation, the Meche-Greinke combo is something to be excited about, but when there are guys behind Davies in the rotation, it means your rotation might be in a bit of trouble. Sure, he could be the guy in September of ’08, but I’m going with him being the other guy he’s been for his time in the majors. But there is some hope for that bullpen. Throwing Soria, Mahan, Cruz, and maybe Farnsworth on a good day could actually get something done. That bullpen is the difference between them and the Tigers who sit below.

Detroit Tigers (74-88)
Whenever Edwin Jackson is your number two, you better have a good offense. Luckily, that’s exactly what the Tigers have. Cabrera, Guillen, Ordoñez, and Granderson should have good seasons, and Inge and Laird could be surprises. If Thames can stop taunting us and actually produce when it counts, this could be a team to be reckoned with. But … the pitching sucks. Verlander will bounce-back and regain form, but I’m not sold that Jackson is going to put it together. Bonderman could be decent. Galarraga is bound to come back down after his incredibly low BABIP last year (.247). And are they really depending on Porcello? In the bullpen, things don’t get much better. Zumaya might be finished, Rodney doesn’t really put it together, and Lyon is just decent. Other than that, … oh god.

This division is … well … mediocre. None of the five teams stand out. None of them look really good. None of them look terribly bad. All in all, someone is going to wake up and realize that a 10-game winning streak might actually win the division. Luckily, they’re not the AL West, which might be won with a six-game winning streak. Someone needs to step up, but at this point, all of the teams have fatal flaws. In the end, though, I think the Twinkies have the most complete team of the bunch.

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2 Responses to “AL Central Predictions 2009”

  1. The Common Man Says:

    I would like to believe you, Mark. But my little heart is having trouble believing in my beloved Twins this time around. Maybe it’s the doom that faces the Metrodome that’s bleeding over.

  2. tHeMARksMiTh Says:

    Honestly, they’re really the only team in this division that doesn’t have a major weakness. They don’t really have a major strength, but they are solid all the way around.

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